By Matthew Batt
Mariner Books, $14.95, 256 pages

Home ownership is a long cherished American dream, but in Sugarhouse, Matthew Batt illustrates what can happen when renters buy their first house with no idea what lies beneath the wall-to-wall shag carpeting or behind the knotty pine paneling that covers everything in the kitchen (yes, everything). “Sugarhouse” refers to the neighborhood in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Batt and his wife, Jenae, purchase their home, not to the fact that it was a crack house. This book is a hilarious look at why an inspection report is virtually useless to everyone but the guy who gets paid to write it, and what happens when you’re the only fixer for your fixer-upper.

Sugarhouse isn’t just a memoir about reclaiming a house and making it a home. The author also has to deal with the death of his beloved grandmother and a grandfather whose grieving process includes taking off for Las Vegas with his dead wife’s nurse and buying her daughter breast implants. The most surprising part of this memoir is that Batt’s head didn’t explode from everything being thrown at him. Instead, he handles life, renovations and contractors with attitude, and pretty much everything else that comes his way with humor and aplomb.

Reviewed by Catherine Gilmore